An 18 year old from a village in Nepal outdoes US companies spending millions on R&D. Too much ‘out of the box’ thinking for us nowadays, I guess. An example of why we have dropped to #2 in competitiveness? At least we have this.

A new type of solar panel using human hair could provide the world with cheap, green electricity, believes its teenage inventor.

Milan Karki, 18, who comes from a village in rural Nepal, believes he has found the solution to the developing world’s energy needs.

The young inventor says hair is easy to use as a conductor in solar panels and could revolutionise renewable energy.
[...]
The solar panel, which produces 9 V (18 W) of energy, costs around £23 to make from raw materials. But if they were mass-produced, Milan says they could be sold for less than half that price, which could make them a quarter of the price of those already on the market.

Melanin, a pigment that gives hair its colour, is light sensitive and also acts as a type of conductor. Because hair is far cheaper than silicon the appliance is less costly.




  1. joaoPT says:

    Hmmm. would I be able to power my wearable appliances ie. iphone with a cable strapped to my head…
    …I wonder.

  2. swizzlenuts says:

    I am very skeptical of this. There is a lot of details not given. I also agree with the first poster that assuming 100% energy conversion doesn’t make sense.

  3. Shapey Fiend says:

    Hair isn’t a good conductor even when wet. This story is nonsense.

  4. Sea Lawyer says:

    I’m imagining scenes from the The Peanut Butter Solution

  5. Phydeau says:

    Even if this is true, where would they get the massive quantities of hair necessary to mass-produce them?

  6. 9v_battery says:

    Yeah, don’t get your hopes up. Not a single article anywhere describes any science behind this, nor shows how it works other than hair wrapped around posts and a few red & blue wires. He’s just got a 9 volt battery hidden in there.

  7. Mark Derail says:

    It’s a heat-displacement, causing electricity, setup (thermocoupling).

    Kinda like using black PVC to heat water to run a Stirling engine, that is also a cheaper setup than solar panels.

    Has nothing to do with hair & electrons, the hair is a heat capture device.

    Most likely the same effect can be achieved with black metal heatsinks enclosed in a glass container to prevent wind.

    Quote (HowStuffWorks.com)

    If you would like to generate electricity from heat in a simple way that has no moving parts, this usually involves thermocouples.

    Thermocouples take advantage of an electrical effect that occurs at junctions between different metals. For example, take two iron wires and one copper wire. Twist one end of the copper wire and one end of one of the iron wires together. Do the same with the other end of the copper wire and the other iron wire. If you heat one of the twisted junctions (perhaps with a match) and attach the two free ends to a volt meter, you will be able to measure a voltage. Similarly, if you hook the two iron wires to a battery, one junction will get hot and the other will get cold.

  8. Mark Derail says:

    If you look closely at the pic, there’s lots of wires. So each thermocouple generates a tiny bit of electricity.

    Each one is wired in series to get a multiplier effect.

    The innovation is using (relatively) cheap parts. High end / industrial grade thermocouples exist and are costly.

  9. Mark Derail says:

    OMG he was positioned to have a CFL lightbulb over his head, LOL.

  10. The Warden says:

    Now there’s a good reason to have all my girlfriends shave their private parts. It’s all in the name of saving the planet!

  11. Just Some Guy says:

    I’m not an engineer (yet) but it seems to me that the biggest obstacle with this kind of solar solution would be scaling. Much like a sterling engine, which is a good power solution at smaller power levels, the power output looks like it would scale linearly with the size of the photocells. You could charge your iPod or run a laptop or something of that size but you’d need an acre of these to run a refrigerator much less any other electric appliances in a house.

    That being said, it is a good idea anda good solution for smaller items and I’m all for #9’s comment about the girlfriend/wife helping out the planet by getting rid of all that pesky hair.

  12. dcphill says:

    This all sounds pretty hairy to me. Hmmm.

  13. The Monster's Lawyer says:

    #12 dr phill – Yep, sounds hair brained to me too.

  14. Turing Machine says:

    marks right dissimilar metals. and i was hope for Photovoltaic effect.

    still i did make some very crude transistors in tech shame they (all but one) broke before they reached bias.

    hehe

  15. The0ne says:

    #11
    I am and while this seems interesting it’s probably not going to take off anytime soon or in a big way. There’s just too many missing info on the project and most of us, technical or not, most of us already know what hair is/does.

    1. it’s all over the place!
    2. decay’s slow
    3. turns white!
    4. not a good conductor or the hair that just fell from my head on the powered PCB would have shorted :)
    5. curls when heated, could be bad for his project there :)
    6. Add your comments here :)

    still a fun project imo. My 8th grade science project was solar cells lol.

  16. RSweeney says:

    hmmmm… 18 watts for 23 pounds

    That’s $2.08/watt. Even at 1/2 price, it’s still over a buck.

    Which is pretty interesting to call cheap since the Chinese are selling polysilicon for less than $1/watt and First Solar is making cadmium telluride panels for 50 cents/watt.

  17. Angel H. Wong says:

    American investors will greet him. They will bring Lawyers who will harass and threaten him until he signs a document where: a) he will admit he’s a filthy, brown skinned son of a peasant asian who couldn’t come up with something that smart and b) He will grant any of his research findings to the investor’s company without seeking any monetary compensation at all.

  18. noname says:

    The panel the kid holds looks like 2 ft X 1.5 ft, or 3 sq-ft for 6 watts/sq-ft or 0.006kWh per sq-ft. A square foot in Arizona averages close to 0.6 kWh per day. Ok, that means it has a 24% conversion efficiency. I can’t believe that.

    On average (as a general “rule of thumb”) modern photovoltaics (PV) solar panels will produce 8 – 10 watts per square foot of solar panel area.

    9 V (18 W) of energy. Hum, that 2 amps. It’s really hard for me to believe this thing puts out 2 freaking amps.

    Put 13 in series and you have 117V at 2 amps. Put 13 in parallel and you have a hefty 26 amps at 9V.

    It strikes me as B.S.

  19. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz says:

    People who don’t have innovate, that’s how thing works.

  20. Glenn E. says:

    One more “tree hugging” excuse for why the Third World shouldn’t be allowed to burn oil or coal, for reliable electric power. They can just run off of solar cells made from hair. SURE! But even today’s solar technology isn’t filling the bill, in these countries. You can’t run a refrigerator off a 9 volt system. And it’s not always as sunny as you might think, in countries that have an annual monsoon.

    Keeping the Third World nations, poor and underdeveloped (in the name of the environment) also keeps their labor costs lower than developed countries. So you can bet that there is some financial interests in keeping the scales tipped that way, as long as possible.

    If Edison had never ran wires into American (and some European) homes, for powering his light bulb. We would never have all the labor saving and entertaining appliances that we do today. We’d be not much better than most of the Third World. You can’t run a PC, off of Natural Gas. This is what many South African nations have had to live with, because their political regimes have kept them poor and backward. And by not having the hope of a higher standard of living, they don’t make trouble for the labor intensive industries that exploit them. Not just brand name athletic wear. But the diamond and gold mining biz too. There are some genuine bastards at work, behind all this. Hair solar cells, Ha!

  21. OhYeahItalianMenAreSoHot says:

    Now we know how best to employ the obnoxious (redundant) Guidos that have been making our sinks look disgusting for centuries.

  22. Uncle Patso says:

    We’ll never hear another word about this, just like hundreds of stories from the old “Popular Science” and “Popular Mechanix,” both of which regularly carried stories about the promising progress on flying cars, etc.

  23. Steve says:

    Nazis!

  24. unog says:

    This is incredible, that’s enough power to run transistor radios for 6 billion homes, that is, if you cover the entire earth with hair.

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